There are many reasons to choose resilient floor coverings such as luxury vinyl tiles (LVTs) and vinyl as a floor covering. With a wide variety of designs, colours and patterns to choose from, this type of flooring can also be used across several applications – from healthcare and sports facilities to commercial and residential developments. 

However, as with any floor covering, the end-result is only as good as the subfloor preparation and installation products below. Follow these top tips to get it right. 

Substrate preparation 

As the old adage says, if you fail to prepare, then prepare to fail. The same can be said for the correct preparation of the substrate before any flooring installation. A surface that has not achieved the required compressive strength, is soft or friable, damaged or contaminated with oil and/or chemicals, will not support a successful installation. 

Substrate preparation may be time-consuming and add costs to the overall project, but it is nothing compared to the downstream costs of a failed installation. 

Top tip: The evaluation of the substrate at the beginning of a project allows the flooring contractor to more accurately quote, repair, install and deliver a long-lasting installation. Consideration of moisture levels as well as hydro-static pressure is important in the correct surveying and specification of specific site conditions.  

Managing moisture 

Concrete always has some level of moisture in it, no matter how new or old, which needs to be managed. Some may say that this forms part of substrate preparation, but it is so important that it deserves to be addressed separately. 

Moisture vapour emission rates (MVERs) within concrete can vary over time, and it is affected by several environmental factors. Most manufacturers of resilient and vinyl floor coverings will specify the maximum level of moisture that their product can tolerate, usually 3% or less. 

When there are high MVERs, the application of a suitable vapour barrier system is required. This is an epoxy or polyurethane-based coating that limits, or even prohibits, the passage of moisture through the concrete and helps to prevent bubbling and/or delamination of the floor covering. 

It should also be noted that the moisture content of a concrete substrate may fluctuate according to the season and can be affected by geographic surface run-off and structural changes around the building. It is therefore recommended that a vapour barrier be installed on surface beds even if the floor appears to be dry at the time of the flooring installation.  

Top tip: Testing of the moisture levels should be done across the entire substrate, for accuracy. The MVER levels may be higher in areas with less airflow or sunlight, and in areas where remedial work has been done that may not yet have cured sufficiently. It is also important to ensure that once the floor has been surveyed that one has confirmation of a damp proof course (DPC) being present and to know the specification of the DPC, to ensure the correct moisture barrier is being used. 

Priming matters 

As vapour barriers are usually epoxy or polyurethane-based, and levelling compounds are cementitious, it is therefore advisable, in the event of having applied a resin-based vapour barrier, to prime this surface with a suitable priming system to provide a mechanical key before installation of the levelling screed.   

Top tip: Creating a key between the vapour barrier and the screed reduces the risk of delamination. This can be achieved by either using an acrylic bond promotor or as an alternative option, a cementitious bond promotor. 

Levelling the floor 

LVTs and vinyl flooring require a smooth and level surface for the best results. Imperfections in the surface will show through the floor covering, affecting the long-term aesthetics and durability of the installation. The solution is the installation of a suitable self-levelling compound onto which the final floor covering will be applied. 

Top tip: A fast-curing self-levelling compound saves time on fast-track projects. 

Issue: How to ensure the successful installation of resilient flooring. 

Solution: The preparation of the floor below the final covering is key to achieving a durable result for LVTs and vinyl sheet flooring. 

Adhesive selection 

Different types of vinyl flooring will require a specialised adhesive solution. 

  • LVTs require an adhesive that is formulated for “‘wet lay” installations and where the cured glue line is rigid, inhibiting lateral shear movement on the tiles once in service, thus reducing the possibility of ‘gapping’ between the tiles over time. 
  • When installing sheet vinyl, the adhesive must be allowed to “flash off” and become slightly tacky before the floor covering is applied. 

Speak to the manufacturer of the floor covering or a reputable adhesive manufacturer for a fit-for-purpose solution. 

Workmanship 

LVTs, resilient and vinyl flooring installations need a lot of planning and correct preparation to be successful. For the best results, contract a trained and competent flooring applicator.  

Full acknowledgement and thanks go to Mapei, Sika and TAL for the information in this editorial.

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